Workmen were seen having a heated discussion moments before scaffolding on a derelict cinema collapsed into a city centre street, a witness said.
Esther Beadle was at a bus stop directly opposite the old Odeon cinema in Newcastle and described hearing a low rumble before the metalwork came crashing down in Pilgrim Street.
It happened at around 11.30pm last night as she was waiting for the last bus home after seeing the Bob Mortimer show Athletico Mince.
She said: "There was a group of about six or seven guys in hi-viz looking up at the building and they seemed to be having quite a heated discussion about it.
"About three or four minutes later there was a very low rumble and the front of the building which had been covered in scaffolding fell forward.
"The scaffolding got mangled and crumpled as it came down and there was dust everywhere."
She said scaffolding fell into the street and ended up just a few metres from where she was standing.
"Had there been anyone on the other side of the street they would have been seriously injured," she said.
"It was quite a mess."
The cinema was in the process of being demolished, and it was thought that a crane had knocked some of the scaffolding before the collapse.
A Northumbria Police spokesman said: "At around 11.30pm last night, police received a report that some of the scaffolding at the old Odeon cinema site had fallen down on to Pilgrim Street.
"Nobody was injured during the incident and the road was closed overnight to allow the scaffolding to be cleared away.
"The road was reopened at around 6.30am this morning."